The U.S. military has cut the number of Iraqi civilians killed at U.S. checkpoints or shot by U.S. convoys to about one a week today from about seven a week in July, according to U.S. defense officials in Iraq.
Since arriving in Iraq as the No. 2 military official in January, Lt. Gen Peter Chiarelli has made reducing Iraqi civilian casualties in escalation-of-force incidents a bigger priority. Gen. Chiarelli has been critical of the U.S. military for using force too quickly.

"It is something he has been pushing since we got into theater, and we have been making good progress," said a military officer familiar with the general's efforts. Some of the decrease has been the result of changes in tactics and training. Military commanders have been ordered to ensure that their checkpoints all use the same signs and setup to minimize confusion.

U.S. soldiers have been given new equipment such as sirens and green lasers that allow them to get Iraqi drivers' attention without firing warning shots. Soldiers also have been schooled in new ways of spotting suicide bombers.

In April, Gen. Chiarelli directed his subordinate commanders to investigate all escalation-of-force incidents that result in an Iraqi being seriously wounded or killed or cause more than $10,000 in property damage. The results must be sent to Gen. Chiarelli's Baghdad headquarters. Before his order, such incidents weren't always investigated.

In recent months, senior military officials have focused less on finding insurgents and more on keeping soldiers in one place, where they provide daily security for the population. "They are getting into small towns more and staying for a longer period of time. That cuts down on mistakes," says Andrew Krepinevich, executive director of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a Washington defense think tank.